The Sound of Roofs | Teen Ink

The Sound of Roofs

July 24, 2022
By milesfromnextyear BRONZE, Lagos, Other
milesfromnextyear BRONZE, Lagos, Other
2 articles 0 photos 5 comments

Perhaps the most normal thing about today would be the rain. The sky was swelling, with its clouds of grey. From them, a billion droplets fell, a tremulous blue, if you could catch sight of that before they all plummeted to their deaths, like kamikaze fighters, with a scattered noise. This noise rapped out around the village in the torrent.

It was this sound, despite its monotone, that had set the cogs of Claire’s mind working this afternoon. All this noise, unfailingly linked with rainfall – it wasn’t the rain itself that made it, or the rain that was causing that theatrical poh-poh-poh-poh-poh noise above her now. It was the rain splattering on the ground, the rain hitting their roof, her neighbours’ roofs, all the roofs in the town! She felt somewhat pleased at having made this discovery, and its newness in the minutes after it dawned upon her excited her a bit – surely it was one made with a great depth of perception, though it was only possible because she had an uncommon amount of time to spend paying attention to the rain.

That would change very soon.

“Claire?” The girl heard the brisk footsteps of her mother’s entry into the living room. Claire turned round where she sat on the soft couch next to the window, and the look on her mother’s face told her that whatever her mom wanted to tell her was important.

As she finally came to a stop before Claire, she seemed more upright and put together than Claire had seen her in a while, or had even thought still possible of her. Nevertheless, she kept blinking at Claire, with quick slight movements of her head up and down at her daughter, as if Claire was going out of focus in her sight. She took in a few small breaths as well. Her effort to steady herself and say what she wanted to say successfully left Claire with much to expect, though she wasn’t sure what.

When her mother finally spoke, her eyes stayed on the bottom half of the frame of the couch, as if that was who she was addressing. “I need to tell you that after the funeral, we’ll be leaving here. To your uncle’s place in the east. It’s important that your education does not come to a standstill, and your uncle is going to help us pay your school fees so you can keep going. So I need you to start packing, because we’re leaving as soon as possible after your dad’s buried.” Her lips wobbled a bit in their frown a nanosecond after the last words of this announcement, dangerously towards the expression one has when about to cry. However, she forced her face to be calm again a few seconds later, took another breath in, and continued to stare at the bottom part of the couch.

Claire’s father had been a bricklayer, which didn’t pay a lot. Nonetheless, his job had been the main source of income for the family; Claire’s mother had been a stay-at-home mom. When he finally lost a one-year battle against tuberculosis, there was simply no money to pay for Claire’s third term of the school year. And thus Claire’s friends had started this term without her and she had stayed at home, watching the occasional rain, cracking open one of her textbooks when she felt especially desperate to feel a spark of interest, liven things up, feel something. She had had to steer clear of the living room most of the time for these past two weeks, as it had become constantly occupied by relatives who she never knew existed before, leaving her with very little to do confined to her little room. She was an only child as well. Her friends, who were caught up with the sudden rush of schoolwork, and who in any case were more enthusiastic about school than Claire was, now had no time to come visit her, save the weekends.

But now confronted with actually moving to another house, in another city, a million thoughts flooded Claire’s mind. “But I can’t leave!” came out first, and she stood up from the couch. She didn’t say anything more though, because of the disbelief and confusion swirling in her mind. How was this happening? She had everything here. All her friends were in this town. June, Elias, Martha, Julian – she knew everyone here. She didn’t know anyone where her uncle lived! I can’t just leave everyone I know behind!

…I’m their beloved Éclair.

Claire loved chocolate. Milk, fruit and nut, dark, éclairs – she ate them till she grew sick, and then repeated the delicious process. Her friends collectively rearranged the E in her name and added an accent (Julian came up with the idea) whenever she had a bar of chocolate in her hand, and sometimes even when she didn’t. Claire loved the moniker. That her name should facilitate such a clever and thoughtful nickname that was personal to the five’s friendship made her feel like she really belonged to the group of friends.

They also gave her chocolate themselves from time to time – but never in a way that made her feel like a charity case. More in a way that showed how well they knew her as her friends.

“Claire?” Her mother’s voice snapped Claire back to the bringer of bad news. Her mother looked Claire in the eyes this time, and took each hand of Claire’s in each of hers.

“I know this is hard,” her mother said, looking and sounding a bit exasperated. “But you need to understand what you would lose here. I have no money to pay your school fees. None of your other relatives are willing, or have any money to spare – your uncle’s our only hope!” Tears started to her eyes, and her next words seemed raw. “Claire, I just want what’s best for you–”

“You want to pull me away from all my friends – after I just lost my dad?” Claire said slowly. “How do you want what’s best for me?” Claire wrenched her hands out of her mother’s as she said this last sentence, and backed away from her, almost as if she was disgusted.

 “Claire!” her mother called, in protest and sounding hurt. Claire was moving from next to the couch to cross the living-room a bit, then she turned back to speak. “I don’t know if you noticed, but while you were crying, and our relatives were fawning over you and-and you were all getting busy with funeral preparations, my friends were the only ones there for me! They comforted me!” Claire’s voice was strong here as she let her mom know this. “Yeah, Mom, we all lost Dad, not just you.” The tone of her voice then became heavy with disbelief, at normal volume but with the texture of a whisper. “I hardly get to see them anymore and now you want to ship me halfway across the country?”

Many tears were sliding down Claire’s mom’s face now, which was screwed up, and she was looking away from Claire. “I’m sorry,” she whispered in-between sobs, before she fully broke down into tears and crying, bending slowly onto the couch. The howls she let out, wrenched out of her, were vocal expressions of the pain she felt. Each one was followed with a snivel, like she was choking, and Claire knew that it was her dad, and how her mother had lost him, that was on her mother’s mind now.

Claire saw before her, her mother, crumpled, being choked in the life she was living, and she just couldn’t bear to watch. Claire ran to her without a moment’s hesitation and joined her on the floor directly in front of the couch. “It’s okay, Mom, it’s okay,” she said, again, and again, repeatedly rubbing her mom’s arm as she hugged her with one arm, tears making traces down her own face now as she also felt the pain of Dad’s death in this moment: all the sorrow he’d left behind. The ache her mother had. For a while it was just her rubbing the arm of her disconsolate mother next to her, whispering in her ear, doing all she could to comfort her, while the rain pitter-pattered just behind the window behind them.

Now that her dad was gone, Claire’s own life felt a bit emptier. And lonelier. There was no more of him popping into her room to give her the chocolates he had been given by his boss after work that day, as his project manager used to always give out chocolates to his workers at the end of work every day – no more signs that her dad still existed. Those were just memories now.

Her father used to be furious with the time she ‘wasted’ on other fun activities, the time she spent not studying, and the resulting poor grades, perhaps because of how hard he worked to be able to pay her school fees – so one day he struck up a deal with her. “I’m going to stop giving you the chocolates I bring home every night – unless, you come back home every day from school and you study, and tell me what you’ve learnt when I come home from work. Then I’ll give you the chocolates.”

The thought of the homely, delicious taste of each square of each bar coerced her into studying every day. She was soon surprised to find she felt somewhat ready for tests and exams now – and it reflected in her improving grades.

In time her mother’s cries died down to deep gasps for air, and eventually she somewhat calmed down. In these moments, Claire silently resigned herself to something. She asked, with more difficulty than her soft voice gave away, “When do we leave?”

“The day after,” her mother told her, looking and sounding weary, her eyes still glistening with tears and her face still carrying so much sadness. “The day after the funeral. I didn’t want you to miss any more days of this school term than we could help.” She then seemed to remember Claire’s earlier opposition, and turned her face towards her daughter. “Honey – I just really want you to understand–”

“No, I do, Mom, it’s okay,” Claire was quick to reassure her. And she did understand: if it would make her mom feel better, she had to go. Anything to not see her like this again. Claire’s heart had given way at hearing from her mom just now how little time there was until she left her friends, but she breathed in and braved a small smile and said to her mother, “Dad would want to me to continue my education.”

The words brought a small smile to her mom’s own face. “Yes he would,” she said softly, her face brightening ever so slightly. She nodded her head slightly a few times after she said this, then took a second to wipe her palms against her face. She pulled Claire into a hug, resting her chin on Claire’s head. “Thank you for understanding. I love you, okay?” she told her, bringing her head down to her daughter’s ear so her face was against Claire’s black hair. Claire could not respond.

She then made to get up, and Claire quickly helped pull her up from the floor. “I’m going to make some lemonade,” her mother told her when she stood, her eyes and small smile screaming that she could never truly be happy again, and she walked out of the living-room, much slower than she had come in.

Claire stared after her mother as she left, and the factor she’d pushed out of her head for the last few minutes, to enable her to appease her mother, finally took the gentlest hold of her mind, as though it still hadn’t hit her, then got firmer and more real. I’m leaving this town. I’m leaving all my friends. She then realised her friends would still be in school right now. Instinctively, she went back to the window by the couch, as if she’d be able to see them through there. And there she sat and through it she stared, watching the rain fall wanting to see something in the raindrops, with fresh, stinging raindrops of her own in her eyes, as the sound of roofs enveloped her once more.

The author's comments:

The 'discovery' Claire makes at the beginning actually dawned upon me one rainy morning when I was getting ready for the day and looked out the window. The plot of the story itself evolved over time after that, and my hope is that the reader can either relate to her situation, or feel something while reading this story.

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This article has 1 comment.

Afra DIAMOND said...
on Aug. 7 2022 at 1:10 pm
Afra DIAMOND, Kandy, Other
87 articles 7 photos 1800 comments

Favorite Quote:
"A writer must never be short of ideas."
-Gabriel Agreste- (Fictional character- Miraculous)

This is simply remarkable!!!★★★